Bus lanes have been branded a “huge money-spinner” for councils as new figures revealed annual council surpluses from their enforcement near £80 million.

AA analysis of Department for Transport data shows English local authorities generated a combined £127.3 million in revenue from fining motorists for driving in bus lanes when not allowed during the 2022/23 financial year.

Taking £47.7 million of costs into account, this resulted in a total surplus of £79.6 million, with Essex County Council hauling in £2.5 million.

An Essex County Council spokesman said: “Bus gates are necessary to improve the journeys and travel time of buses, encouraging the people of Essex to use this important transport which, by taking cars off the road, improves air quality and the environment, key aims of our Safer, Greener, Healthier campaign.

“Significant work has taken place to increase signage at all junctions leading to bus gates in Essex.

“For the council, bus gates are about compliance rather than income and success would be to issue no fines at all, because then people were not contravening the restrictions but instead being more thoughtful about their journeys and the routes they take.

“All money generated by PCNs is ring-fenced and reinvested to help improve public transport, roads and the transport network across Essex.”

Bus lane rules vary, with some only operating at periods of peak congestion, or open to certain other vehicles such as taxis and motorbikes.

Many are enforced by cameras, leading to fines being issued for improper use.

AA spokesman Luke Bosdet said: “Bus lanes are a huge money-spinner for many local authorities that enforce them.

“The cameras that monitor them haul in fines on an industrial scale.

“The problem is that, for many sites, the number of drivers caught doesn’t go down.

“That strongly suggests that signage and road markings often don’t do their job in directing drivers away from bus lanes, which need to be kept clear to maintain the efficiency of public transport.

“It’s hard to believe that so many motorists throw themselves into bus lanes like lemmings, for the joy of losing a day’s wages.

“There needs to be greater transparency of fine levels for bus lanes that are hauling in so much income.

“If so many drivers are being caught along a stretch of road then surely the enforcement isn’t working properly and the cause of the failure needs to be understood and rectified.”